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Family mourns ex-Tucsonan killed in Iraq



Leanna Hammett and her five daughters were in Tucson visiting her parents after a family vacation at Disneyland when she got the news that her husband, Army Chief Warrant Officer Robert C. Hammett, 39, was killed Tuesday in Iraq.

The couple’s youngest child was born in March 2007. Their oldest child is 16.

Hammett, who lived in Tucson in the late 1980s and met his wife here, planned to retire from the Army in two years with 20 years of service, said his sister, Kit Wolfe of Tucson.

She said before he left Fort Carson, Colo., for Iraq in December “he made sure the family would be taken care of if he didn’t make it back.”

“He loved his girls – his wife – very much,” Wolfe said. “Every time he had to leave them, it just broke a little piece of his heart. He was courageous and brave to keep going over there and doing what he did.”

Wolfe said her brother worked at the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System here before joining the Army in 1990.

Hammett was one of four Americans killed in a bomb blast Tuesday while they attended a district council meeting with Iraqis at the civic center in Sadr City, Baghdad, said Army Maj. Nathan Banks.

An Army major, a female U.S. Department of Defense employee, a male U.S. State Department worker and “a number of Iraqis” were also killed in the blast.

Banks, speaking from Washington, D.C., said “the bomb was planted inside the civic center in a deliberate attack.”

He was a command and control systems technician with 18 years of Army service.

His job was “very high-tech,” said his sister, Kit Wolfe of Tucson, who called him “a wonderful person, very athletic and highly intelligent.”

“He was responsible for going out on Humvees and making clear satellite connections for communications purposes,” Wolfe said.

“Recently he had switched jobs into the job he had when he was killed – PR. He did things that we just didn’t know about. He was connected probably a lot deeper to things than he could ever say to us.”

The Army’s account of his death placed him inside the civic center in Sadr City, Baghdad, when a bomb that had been planted inside the building exploded, killing “a number of Iraqis” and also Army Maj. Dwayne M. Kelley, 48, a New Jersey native who was fluent in Arabic.

Banks, said he is a friend of Kelley. He said Kelley and Hammett had more than 50 years of military service between them and the men were helping in the effort to rebuild Iraq when they died.

“That’s quality soldiering. They are going to be missed by all. The Army mourns with their families,” Banks said.

Hammett was assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. He and his family lived near Fort Carson, Wolfe said.

Hammett joined the Army on March 2, 1990, and served in Kuwait in 2002 and 2003.

He served his first tour in Iraq from November 2005 to November 2006. His second tour in Iraq began in December.

Hammett graduated from La Belle High School in La Belle, Fla., and served in the Coast Guard before joining the Army, she said.

Wolfe remembered the brother she calls “Charlie” as a “really red” newborn. Their mother told her he was red because he had colic and had been crying.

“I remember it clear as day,” she said.

“He was a comrade to his military family and a wonderful husband, father, brother and son.”

Wolfe said her mother, who lives in Tucson, last saw “Charlie” on Halloween 2007.

“She hugged him really hard and told him to be safe.”

Hammett’s mother, Carrie Moen, and his stepfather, retired Army Warrant Officer Orlin Moen, live in the Tucson area. He is also survived by his father, Robert Hammett of Florida, and a brother, Jonathan Hammett of Lehigh, Fla.

Banks said the bodies arrived at Dover (Del.) Air Field on Thursday night. Hammett’s body was being flown to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

Hammett will be buried at Evergreen Cemetery, 3015 N. Oracle Road, at 10 a.m. Thursday. A wake will be held Wednesday at the chapel at Evergreen. The time for the wake has not been determined, Wolfe said.

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